Empathy and Work Ethics: Why And Where They Should Meet

How we build relationships and communicate with each other has changed from 30, 20, even 10 years ago… and is continuing to change. 

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Courtesy of “FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

People from all generations are rushing around, communicating by tapping the screens of smartphones and tablets vs. speaking with each other and paying attention to important physical senses like sight, sound and touch. The result is that Boomers and Gen X as well as Millennials and Gen Z are demonstrating low rates of expressed empathy.

On average, Millennials have grown into adulthood demonstrating lower empathy, but Boomers and Generation X seem to be losing (or not using), the empathic ability they once had, (studies by Sarah Konrath and her associates at the Institute for Social Research have documented the decline in empathy). The decline in our ability to build trusting, interpersonal relationships with clients, co-workers and suppliers is hurting corporate profitability and loyalty of both customers… and employees.

Example: Low customer service satisfaction rates = low customer loyalty = more upset customers = less engaged employees = less loyal employees = lower profits and higher cost to acquire new customers and new employees.

Solution: We need to learn (or relearn), how to express empathy and build trusting relationships in the context of our high-pressure, high-performing lives.

Learning How To Express Empathy And Work Ethics

My research and experience both tell me that the first step to encourage and teach empathy is to go back to basics and examine the relationship between empathy and ethics. And this of course has an impact on leadership style.

Personal ethics are a category of philosophy that guides what an individual believes and the way they behave when faced with choices; therefore, personal ethics and work ethics offers a foundation for self-reflection. Empathy, as I identified in an earlier post in this series is, “A person’s ability to be aware of and correctly imagine how another person is feeling.” Clearly, empathy and ethics share a symbiotic bond.Ying Yang

If a building has a foundation of concrete and steel, ethics has a foundation of: Morals, Principals, Guidelines and Values. Examples of personal ethics and work ethics are:

  • Commitment to excellence (Important work vs. Busy work) Habit 3/Stephen R. Covey
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Respect (person, culture, environment)
  • To Communicate with intention

During an exploration of ethics an individual can recognize one of the best ways to be true to their ethical beliefs (for example ‘Respect’ or ‘To Communicate With Intention’), is by being aware of what they are feeling as well as what the people they are engaging with are feeling (empathy). Experiencing this symbiotic relationship between ethics and empathy then becomes the foundation for personal growth and the opportunity for an individual to reflect on their actions and be curious about the impact their actions have.

Be curious about me, my needs, the world, the community, new things. Wow!


Empathy is what humanizes an individual. Next time you are in a meeting or having a conversation with someone… listen. Don’t judge; don’t assume you know what they are saying or meaning. Reflect on what the others are feeling. It is this engagement of empathy that will enable you to take the next step into making an ethical decision because empathy allows you to consider the impact of your actions on a hundred different variables like an individual, a customer base and/or on the environment.

Every conversation has something to offer. How you will benefit depends on if you are listening.

By building an employee base that is connected to their empathy and ethics we are able to lay the foundation for the next level of organizational growth and profitability. Employees will be able to engage as teams and collaborate on projects that offer clients the best quality, the best service, the best prices while employee satisfaction and harmony skyrocket.

In our next post in this series we will discuss 3 steps practical steps to teach / learn empathy.

I’ll enjoy reading your comments on this post.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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